Combining strength training and cardio is an extremely effective tool for fighting unwanted body fat.  An example of this would be to use complexes with either Barbells, Dumbells or Kettlebells to create the necessary intensity.

What is a Complex?

A complex is a series of lifts performed in succession with one piece of equipment to minimize rest time.  When is say “to minimize rest time” I am not joking as the goal is to not set the equipment on the ground.  To do this it is wise to choose exercises that lead into one another such as starting with barbell Deadlifts followed by barbell High Pulls.  Even using a variety of hand grips and widths will slow down the completion of the complex so try to limit this as much as possible.

Why are complexes so beneficial in dropping body fat?

The metabolic effect that is created from complexes is far superior to other training protocols due to the combination of strength training and high intensity cardio in a single workout.  The selection of exercises are all based on moving multiple muscle groups simultaneously which in turn increases the work demand.

As a resultabs2 of the higher demand on the body there will be an increase in caloric expenditure.   Complexes will also increase training EPOC which leads to an elevated metabolism.

EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and is the recovery of metabolic rate back to    pre-exercise levels.  After completing 30 minutes of high intensity strength training a trainees EPOC will be raised for roughly 30 hours post exercise.  The result is a greater number of calories burned over the course of 30 hours post exercise compared to that of an hour of low intensity exercise (i.e. steady state cardio or isolation based strength training) which may have burned more calories during the exercise period (due to the length of the exercise session) but has very little EPOC throughout the rest of the day.

Who can use complexes?

As the title states complexes are for trainees who are looking to drop body fat.  Due to the high metabolic demand they are not best used for gaining strength or mass (hypertrophy).  I strongly suggest that beginners do not start with this style of training as the demand on the body is extremely taxing.

How do I perform a complex?

Select a piece of equipment to use for the workout.  I prefer to use barbells and kettlebells but dumbells can be used as well.  Chose a weight that you know you can handle for 10-12 reps of your weakest exercise in the complex.  Start the complex by completing 5 reps of the first exercise immediately performing the second exercise of 5 reps.  Transition in to the third exercise and so on.  Using the example above perform the barbell Deadlift followed by barbell High Pulls and from here you may chose your third lift to be barbell Cleans, fourth lift to be barbell Front Squats and if you are well trained a fifth exercise consisting of barbell Reverse Alternating Lunges.  Rest 90 seconds and repeat for 4 sets.

How do I progress using complexes?

Progression can be made by either increasing the number of repetitions in a set, increasing the number of sets in a workout, or decreasing your rest time between sets.  You may be able to increase the weight as well but chances are if you need to increase the weight you probably did not chose a challenging weight to begin with.

A safe progression would look something like the following.kettlebellb

Week 1- 4 sets x 5 reps, 90 seconds rest

Week 2- 4 sets x 5 reps, 75 seconds rest

Week 3- 4 sets x 6 reps, 75 seconds rest

Week 4- 4 sets x 6 reps, 60 seconds rest

Week 5- 5 sets x 6 reps, 60 seconds rest

Week 6- 6 sets x 6 reps, 45 seconds rest

Before starting any exercise program please consult your physician.  I also strongly suggest hiring a professional who is able to screen your body for any asymmetries and dysfunctional movement patterns you may have.  Whether
you are a beginner or a veteran of the “Iron” adding exercise to dysfunction is
a recipe for injury.

Train Mind, Body & Spirit

Nathane L. Jackson cscs & kbts
WBFF Pro & VEGA Ambassador


For more information about Nathane Jackson Fitness; #1 Source for Online Fitness Coaching, please visit


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